Think First What You Are Call To Mind What You Were

<Raphael> The cramped white room in the depths of NERV’s psychiatric ward had become almost comforting after the first week had passed. A combination of the seclusion and an ever-shifting regimen of drugs prescribed by his doctors had given Raphael a strange sense of distance from the outside world. And was that was what was necessary to begin repairing the myriad fractures his mind had suffered during the Nineteenth’s attack on Paris? Who could say?-
<Raphael> But now the man that had been Raphael Guillory stood by the window, trying to grasp the strange flow of time in his little void as he waited for his first requested guest since the initial incident…
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> [The door opened quietly. Lucas Guillory was sitting in his wheelchair, occupying the doorway.-
<@Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Raphael…?"]
<Raphael> The figure hesitated for a moment before turning. The man by the window was certainly not Raphael by any standard Lucas would know. He’s a little taller, and though his face has the same harsh lines as Raphael’s that’s where any resemblance ends. It’s undeniably the face of Gendo Ikari, though at least the scruff of beard that came with the transformation has longs since been shaved off.-
<Raphael> "Lucas…" The man says, and that voice is different too - deeper and gruffer than Raphael’s. Still, there’s an unmistakable familiarity to the way he speaks that name.
<@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Lucas’s eyes widen for a second as he takes in the utterly alien sight. His brother shouldn't look like this. He can tell it's his brother, but the appearance is so alien and different that it sends goosebumps running up his arms.-
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["… Heh." Lucas coughed out. "You seem a little different. Did you grow a bit taller?"]
*Raphael stares at his little brother for a few moments before letting out a choked little laugh. There’s an undeniable trace of relief in the sound. "… A little."
<@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Lucas rolled himself in. "… Heh, it’s pretty funny. You look different, you sound different. But there's still that feel of Raphael-ness to you, you know?"]
<Raphael> "Not really." Raphael says with a sad smile. He crosses the room in a few short steps to take a seat at the end of his bed. "How's Suzanne?"
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["She’s ok. She's a pretty good kid, you know. Easy to cheer up. She's pretty worried about you, though."]
*Raphael nods slowly. "Have you told her about all of this?"
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["No. I figured that was your choice."]
<Raphael> "It was. I was worried Rei might take it upon herself to do it, though."
<@Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Oh, right. Rei." Lucas nodded. "Yeah, she came ’round, but she didn't say anything to Suzie."]
<Raphael> "Good." He murmurs, falling silent for a moment as he looks towards the window. "… She shouldn't have come here. I was… not in the best state."
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Yeah? You wanna talk about it, big brother?"]
<Raphael> "No." He says flatly, only to let out a hiss of a sigh a second after. "… But I should, shouldn’t I?"
<@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Only if you want to." Said Lucas. "I’m here if you wanna talk, but if you don't, that's fine."]
*Zhang‘Mingzhu is now known as Isaiah
<Raphael> "…"-
<Raphael> "Do you know what it did?"
<@Isaiah> ["Not all the details."]
*Raphael nods. "There aren’t a great deal of straight answers when it comes to Angel attacks, but as far as we know this one used an AT field to reshape its victims based on their fears and doubts. Apparently this is how I see myself…" The longer he talks the clearer the odd tone to Raphael’s voice becomes… some dullness that goes way beyond even his normal calm. Perhaps Lucas would recognize the effects of the sedatives busy numbing his brother’s reactions to avoid another outburst.
<@Isaiah> ["Huh…" Lucas frowned a little. "I'm not going to pretend I understand all of how that works, but… Is this really how you see yourself?"]
<Raphael> "I don't even try to understand it." Raphael says with another of those faint smiles. "But I don't really know. In a way I suppose it is…"-
<Raphael> "You probably don't even know the real joke of this shape, do you? Who it turned me into?"
<@Isaiah> ["I… Don't, no."]
<Raphael> "This is Commander Gendo Ikari. Rei's 'father'."
<@Isaiah> ["Oh." Lucas nodded. "… So you see yourself as Rei's dad? That isn't so bad, is it? From what Suzie's told me, you more or less are."]
<Raphael> "Gendo Ikari is also the one that's subjected his daughter to a great deal of pain for his own idea of the greater good."
<@Isaiah> ["… Oh." Lucas's face softened. "Raphael…"]
<Raphael> "The Angels are good at finding just the right barb." Raphael says, his stare returning to the window.
<@Isaiah> ["it seems to me like they're better at letting us use the barbs we've found against ourselves." Said Lucas quietly. "… Which doesn't mean a goddamned thing."]
<Raphael> "And then there's this…" He says, lifting the bottom of his plain white shirt - a real one this time, after a request to the good Doctor - to reveal the Ayanami coins protruding from his chest. The centre coin is still rimmed by a nasty looking set of stitches.
<@Isaiah> ["Wh… What are they, Raphael?"]
<Raphael> "They came with the transformation. Thirty of them. Whatever they're made from, they can't be removed."
<@Isaiah> ["… There…" Lucas coughed, then swallowed. "There's gotta be some way to reverse this."]
<Raphael> "…" Raphael watches Lucas with those dull, watchful eyes for a few moments, trying to decide whether his brother would want the truth. "… They're going to try something."
<@Isaiah> ["Yeah? That's great! What is it? Some kind of surgery?"]
<Raphael> "… some kind, yes. They want to use one of the Evangelions to try and reverse the process with the help of one of the Parisian pilots. It's… not guaranteed. Or safe."
<@Isaiah> ["… You're ok with that?"]
<Raphael> "I don't know what else to do, Lucas."
<@Isaiah> [Lucas nodded slowly. "Brother, I'll support you anyway I can, no matter what decision you make. But you're gonna have to forgive me- I'm pretty damned worried about you."]
<Raphael> "So am I." He says, the fear he feels briefly breaking through the drugged haze to show in his smile. "You'll keep watching Suzie for me?"
<@Isaiah> ["Yeah, for sure. As long as you need. Emma and her get along great."]
*Raphael nods slowly. "Thank you, Lucas."
<@Isaiah> ["Anything, brother." Lucas wheeled over, holding out a hand.]
*Raphael extends his own and shakes firmly. "… Lucas. I need to show you something, but you're not going to like it. I need you to understand."
<@Isaiah> [Lucas swallowed nervously, but his face was impassive. "… Sure."]
*Raphael swiveled on the end of the bed, turning his back to Lucas and brushing away the back of his hair to reveal three more coins dotted down his neck.-
<Raphael> Lucas might have been faintly familiar with the images of the Ayanamis on the last coins, but these were another matter entirely. In the centre was an older, matronly woman shown smiling out at Lucas from her own coin. Above and below are two younger girls, the former in her late teens while the latter couldn’t have been much older than ten.-
<Raphael> All three had a level of detail that would have been nearly impossible on a regular coin, and all three would be sickeningly familiar.
<@Isaiah> ["…"-
<@Isaiah> [Lucas's eyes widened, then narrowed, pain and horror and- a hint of despair creeping into them. He looked away. "G… God's blood. That- that accursed Angel. There was no need to do this to you. None at all."]
*Raphael nods, looking down at his hands. "Do you understand? I can’t wake up every morning to see these things in the mirror, Lucas. I’m no good to anyone like this."
<@Isaiah> [Lucas nodded slowly, understanding slowly taking over his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I understand, brother. I understand all too well."]
<Raphael> "And even then, to lose my body and everything that went with it…" he mutters, a dark look flitting across his face. "To lose that history. That damned scar on my hip from the time Caitlin got her hands on the BB gun…" He shook his head and let out a little laugh. "Do you remember that? Well, it’s gone now. So are the wounds I took to save Suzie in the tunnels. For God’s sake, the doctors just told me that I’ve even grown back my appendix after that nightmare in the refugee camps."-
<Raphael> "All of those marks from my history are just gone, like that life had never happened at all. Only reminders of my mistakes."
<@Isaiah> [Lucas reached out, grabbing his hand. "I'm here, brother. I still have my scars. And I'm gonna have faith, alright? You'll get that life of yours back. Don't give up on me now." He said fervently. "I remember."]
*Raphael takes the hand and squeezes and finally looks back up at Lucas. There's no tears in his eyes, but there's no shortage of pain. "… Ok. Alright, Lucas."
<@Isaiah> ["Now when you get better, I'll come see you, yeah? So unless you wanna make me a liar, you'll do that for me."]
*Raphael manages a very weak smile at that and nods slowly. "Yes sir."
<@Isaiah> ["Good. You… You gonna be ok for now?"]
<Raphael> "I… I think so."
<@Isaiah> ["Ok." He grinned. "Hang in there, yeah?"-
<@Isaiah> [There was a knock at the door.]
*Raphael gives his brother a quick pat on the shoulder before glancing towards the door with a frown. Was Felix doing the rounds this early? "… Yes?"
<@Isaiah> [The door opened. "It's Colonel Amatore-DeForest."]
<Raphael> "… A-ah." Raphael says, trying to mask the surge of panic. "Come in, ma'am."
<@Isaiah> [Marianne stepped in. "I hope I'm not interrupting."]
<Raphael> "Uh, no ma'am, not at all." Raphael says, standing quickly and making a doomed effort to straighten out the wrinkles in his shirt. "Colonel, this is my brother, Lucas."
<@Isaiah> ["Nice to meet you, Lucas." Said Marianne. "I'm Marianne Amatore-DeForest, Raphael's commanding officer."-
<@Isaiah> ["Pleased to meet you, ma'am. Ah… Should I step out for a minute?"-
<@Isaiah> ["Is that ok? Sorry. It's just- there's something I need to mention."-
<@Isaiah> ["No, that's fine." Lucas shot Raphael a smile. "See you in a minute." He rolled out.]
*Raphael nods to Lucas as he passes, but his attention is turned back towards Marianne a moment later. The Group Captain seems rather uneasy and jittery in the Colonel's presence, obviously struggling with a deep discomfort. "What's wrong, Colonel?"
<@Isaiah> ["You probably haven't heard. But… Last night, the United States officially surrendered to Minerva Linden."]
<Raphael> Some distant part of Raphael’s mind that’s been in lockdown since that last battle seems to snap back into place. All of a sudden his expression is a little sharper, his posture straighter. "What’s the situation in Boston?"
<@Isaiah> ["Linden- President Linden, now- has given the city a week to surrender. Until then it's surrounded by LN units. The city's fully invested."]
*Raphael lets out a slow breath. "Alright. So what's your plan, Colonel?"
<@Isaiah> ["Within the next few days, we're going to launch an attack on the forces around Berlin, try to break through the seaside forces and into the city. Buy it enough time to evac. We'll be taking the three Paris-2 Evangelions and the Superheavy Regiment out to do this, along with ground troops and, if he's chosen today to pilot, Gabriel-Wei."]
<@Isaiah> «Boston*»
*Raphael frowns at the mention of Isaiah, but it earns no further comment at the moment. "I can assist, ma'am."
<@Isaiah> ["Mmm…"-
<@Isaiah> ["Dr. Castillo-Delgado has ruled that you're not quite ready to pilot the Grendel yet."]
<Raphael> There's a pause as that sense of agitation about him grows. "… With respect, ma'am, the rest of the team need more training before they're ready to pilot it."
<@Isaiah> ["Mm. So for now we'll have to do without."]
*Raphael stares at her uncomprehendingly for a moment. "… You can't just leave me out of this, Marianne. This is Rei. I can do this… I -need- to do this."
<@Isaiah> ["…" Marianne shook her head. "Not like this, Raphael. You're uncoordinated in that unfamiliar body."]
<Raphael> "I can do this." Raphael repeats.
<@Isaiah> ["… Listen, Raphael. I'd love for you to be ready for this. You're a good pilot and a good leader. But I have a responsibility to my soldiers. And that includes you. If you're going to push this point then you need to make sure you're ready."]
<Raphael> "… Yes, ma'am." He mutters, making an obvious effort to calm himself with only minimal success. "Excuse the outburst, Colonel."
<@Isaiah> ["Excused." Said Marianne. "Will you be able to ready yourself, Group Captain Guillory?"]
<Raphael> "Yes, ma'am."
<@Isaiah> ["Good." She nods.-
<@Isaiah> ["… I'm sorry for interrupting. I'll let you get back to your meeting."]
*Raphael nods once. "… If I… if I'm somehow unable to do this, Marianne, good luck. I'm sorry I can't do more to help."
<@Isaiah> [She nodded. "I know. It's not your fault, Raphael." She said gently. "Just keep your head on straight and work through this, ok?"]
<Raphael> "I'll try, Colonel. Please give Pilot Zhang my condolences about Isaiah."
<@Isaiah> ["I will. Goodbye, Raphael. Good luck."]

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